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March 19, 2004 - Image 90

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-03-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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from page 38C

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Jennifer Recant brought Kiddush cups, mezuzzot, prayer shawls and a Havdalah
candle with her to Cuba.

ly convinced Castro to allow the Jews
to leave.
Cubans now are allowed to emi-
grate, but most do not have the
money to pick up and move.
Since 1992, the JDC has sent rabbis
and community organizers to help
with Jewish education, perform cere-
monies and establish a computer cen-
ter linking the Jewish communities of
Havana, Santiago and Camaguey.
Directing most of their programs via
Argentina, the JDC also provides basic
commodities that are scarce in Cuba
— such as food and special shipments
of ritual items — and provides health
services and medications to the
Havana Sunday school pharmacy.
B'nai B'rith and other international
organizations also are involved in relief
efforts.

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Three synagogues in Havana survived
the revolution — one Orthodox, one
Conservative and one traditional
Sephardi — and were the sites of the
recent bar and bat mitzvahs, each of
which featured community celebra-
tions with food, dancing and trans-
portation for about 150 people.
The students prepared for their rites
of passage once a week for six months
with Mara and Nestor Szewach, JDC
representatives and program coordina-
tors in Cuba. There had been some
isolated bar mitzvahs before," but this
"was the first time a program like this
had taken place in Cuba in the last 40

years," Nestor Szewach says.
When the children read directly
from the Torah, it "was very moving
for the whole community," he adds.
"It was so meaningful to see how
my religion is practiced in other
places," said Jennifer Recant. It also
was remarkable to see "how little they
have. We have so much here, but even
a penny goes so far there."
Last April, the six b'nai mitzvah and
their parents attended a closing cere-
mony for Jennifer's program, in which
every child was presented with a Bible,
a Kiddush cup and a challah cover
that Jennifer had bought. There still is
money left in the fund, Will Recant
says, adding that "I would love to
replenish it" for more kids to be able
to undergo the process that Jennifer
sponsored.
Since her visit, it hasn't been easy for
Jennifer to keep in touch with her
Cuban friends. "Since there's no mail
service to Cuba and e-mail only works
some times, I'm waiting to send a let-
ter with the next mission."
Still, her own mission has had last-
ing benefits for her. The trip "changed
my life, because it made me more
aware of what people in different liv-
ing conditions are like," she says. "It
also made me aware of how much I
have compared to them, such as cloth-
ing, food, toys, housing and Jewish
schooling." I 1

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